Monday, January 29, 2007
EZ DV Camcorders
Capture digital video with these palm-sized, reasonably priced camcorders that boast high-end features
Of these three, MiniDV is the most popular format and is made by virtually every camcorder manufacturer, giving you the widest selection from which to choose by far. In MiniDV camcorders, high-quality video (720x480-pixel resolution) is recorded digitally on matchbox-sized cassettes that hold about 60 to 90 minutes of footage. Their size allows the camcorder to be significantly smaller than old analog camcorder bodies and more compact than other digitally formatted cameras. Perfect when traveling, they're now available at much more competitive prices than in the recent past when they used to be the more expensive format.
Digital8 was created by Sony and records to Hi8 tapes, which makes this format appealing to those who upgrade from an 8mm or Hi8 analog camcorder. These tapes are larger than MiniDV cassettes but cheaper, and record about 60 minutes of Digital8. Only made by a handful of companies, Digital8 camcorders are larger, but generally the most moderately priced, and are the only format that's backward-compatible with analog media.
DVD camcorders burn data directly onto miniature DVDs, so you can shoot your video, take the disc out of the camcorder and pop it into a DVD player to watch immediately. The discs don't degrade with repeated playback the way cassettes do, and you have the added advantage of being able to easily drag and drop data files from the DVD onto your hard drive for editing.
At First Glance
As you're handling a digital camcorder, you're likely to notice its physical features first before exploring what else it has to offer. Digital technology has facilitated the creation of ultracompact camcorders; some are even designed to fit in the palm of your hand. When test-driving each model, consider not only its size and weight, but also its ergonomics. How comfortably does it fit in your hand? Are the controls within easy reach of your fingers? Also, are they intuitive and easy to use?
The LCD screen is a major advantage of digital camcorders. Use the screen as a viewfinder while recording and to play back video and still images, just as you would with a digital camera. The good news is that large, bright LCD screens are standard on most camcorders. The common size for screens is about two inches, but you can find some as small as 1.5 or as large as four inches. Most tilt and rotate for easy viewing and shooting from various angles.
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